“We wouldn’t have gotten a divorce if you were more responsible, Joe. I’ve told you a thousand times that you shouldn’t be so late in bringing Timmy home after your visits.”
Joe hated these lectures, which was why he avoided his ex-wife most of the time. It was why he waited as long as he could after his every-other-weekend visits with his five-year-old son to take him back to Janet’s place.
Ignoring Janet, or trying to, Joe knelt down in front of his uncertain and anxious son. “Hey, buddy. Did we have a great time or what?”
Remembering the late-night pizza and ice cream blitz after all day at the amusement park, Timmy grinned. “We sure did, Dad.”
Joe became serious for a few seconds and put his arms around the little boy. “I love you, son.”
“I love you too, Daddy.” Timmy threw his tiny arms around his Dad’s neck and squeezed. Then feeling his Dad start to stand, he let go.
“See you next time, killer.” Joe grinned at the boy.
“See you later, Daddy.” Timmy wasn’t smiling. He was sad to see his Dad go and wished they could spend more time together.
“Timmy, go inside. Your supper’s on the table. I’ll be right in after I talk to your Daddy.
Timmy disappeared inside knowing Mommy and Daddy were going to have another argument about him. His stomach ache came back and he didn’t feel like eating, so a went to his bedroom to lay down on his bed instead.
Janet half-closed the door to her apartment and walked up to her ex-husband.
“Dammit, Joe! The custody agreement says you have to have him back home at the end of your visit on Sunday by six. It’s after 7:30. What the hell are you thinking? I’ve got to get him his dinner, have him take a bath, and get his backpack and lunch ready for school tomorrow.”
“Hey, Jan. We just got busy and I lost track of time, that’s all.” Joe was holding up both hands palms toward Janet hoping she’d make peace or at least calm down.
“You’re late with your last child support payment. How am I supposed to raise him on just my salary. You’re his Father or you’re supposed to be. It wouldn’t kill you to step up and provide more care for him.”
“I had trouble balancing my cheque book again. You’ll have the support payment first thing tomorrow. I promise.”
“We all know what your promises are worth, don’t we, Joe?”
He wished she’d stop lecturing him but he couldn’t yell back. Not when all she had to do was haul him back into court and take away even more of his time with Timmy.
“Look, I’ve got to go. You’ll get your money tomorrow. Bye.” Without waiting for her to reply, Joe turned and walked back down the hall to the elevator. Then, not wanting to have to wait with her staring bullet holes in his back, he decided to take the stairs.
“Bastard.” She whispered under her breath not wanting Timmy to hear.
Joe had just reached his car and was unlocking the door when he heard “the Voice” again. “I created your life so you could sanctify the world and draw closer to me, Joe. Why do you keep getting seduced by the beauty and pleasures of the world?”
Joe looked up into the dark, cloudy sky and said, “Not you, too? Don’t I get a break?”
“Does life take a break, Joe? Does Timmy take a break from needing a Father who loves him?”
“I do love him. Didn’t I just spend all that time and money on him? We had a blast.”
“Love is more than games, pizza, and ice cream, Joe. Love is being responsible for his support and providing a good, moral example for him.”
“That’s it, pal. I’m done listening. I don’t need another lecture.”
“You need something, Joe. I’ve brought enough adversity into your life, your divorce, your demotion at work. I hoped it would focus your attention and inspire you to examine your life.”
Joe got into his car and fired up the engine. “Not listening, Big Daddy.”
He threw the car into reverse, backed out of the parking space, and headed toward the street.
Joe ignored the stop sign, floored the accelerator pedal, and took a sharp left leaving the parking lot. He didn’t see the big delivery truck until it struck the left side of his car right at the driver’s door. He was killed instantly.
Bill cried out as he woke up from his nightmare and abruptly sat upright in bed. It took him a few moments to realize that it was just a dream, the same dream he’d been having for the past month.
“What’s wrong, Bill?” Sarah’s voice sounded distant and drowsy.
“Sorry to wake you, Babe. Just that damned nightmare again. Go back to sleep.”
“I can hear the baby crying. I’d better…”
“No, Sarah. I’ll get up. Just go back to sleep. I’ll take care of her.”
Bill got out of bed and walked to Chrissy’s room. He kept the lights off but lifted his 15-month-old daughter out of her crib. “There, there, sweetheart. Daddy’s here.”
The baby immediately stopped crying but continued to stifle little sobs as she let her Daddy comfort her. It took only a few minutes for her to calm down and fall half-asleep in his arms. Bill put her back down in her crib and pulled the blanket over her tiny body. She was restless for a few seconds, then fell back to sleep again.
Instead of going back to bed, Bill opened the back door and walked out onto the patio. It was a warm night. He enjoyed the quiet and stillness. It gave him time to think.
Everything had changed once Chrissy had been born. He loved the little girl more than anything, but settling down to being a husband and then a Dad was tough. He had lived his adult life as a freewheel. He came and went as he pleased, worked hard, played hard, and enjoyed life to the fullest.
Then he fell in love with Sarah. He called her his rock, the stable one in the relationship. She enjoyed his spontaneity at first, calling him her one-man adventure, but things got serious when they found out she was pregnant.
Turning himself from a one-man adventure to a family man was harder than he thought it would be. It was hurting his relationship with Sarah, and he was worried that she might even be thinking of leaving him.
He had to do something before it was too late, before he became the man in his nightmare.
Then Bill heard a loud, booming voice echo inside his head. “Okay Joe, or should I say Bill. Are you ready to try again?”
I got the idea for this story from a portion of the book “The Bible for the Clueless But Curious,” by Rabbi Nachum Braverman about about the story of the Prophet Jonah. I found the relevant story posted at Aish.com.
To refresh your memory of the Biblical Book of Jonah, here’s Aish’s recap:
God tells Jonah to go to Ninveh and to prophesy that in 40 days, God will destroy the city. Instead, Jonah goes to Jaffa, boards a ship, and sails for Tarshish. A great storm arises. Frightened, Jonah goes to sleep in the ship’s hold. The sailors somehow recognize that Jonah is responsible for the storm. They throw him overboard, and the sea becomes calm.
A great fish swallows Jonah. Then three days later, God commands the fish to spit Jonah back out upon dry land. God tells Jonah, “Let’s try it again. Go to Ninveh and tell them in 40 days I will destroy the city.”
According to Rabbi Braverman, the story of Jonah can be considered a metaphor. Here’s the actual message:
The story is a metaphor for our struggle for clarity. Jonah is the soul. The soul is assigned to sanctify the world, and draw it close to God. But we are seduced by the world’s beauty. (Jaffa in Hebrew means “beauty.”) The ship is the body, the sea is the world, and the storm is life’s pains and troubles. God hopes confrontation with mortality will inspire us to examine our lives. But Jonah’s is the more common response – we go to sleep (have a beer, turn on the television). The sailors throw Jonah overboard – this is death. The fish that swallows Jonah is the grave. Jonah is spat back upon the land – reincarnation. And the Almighty tells us to try again. “Go sanctify the world and bring it close to God.”
So in my small story, Joe is Jonah, who has been called to sanctify the world and draw nearer to his Creator. Instead, he distracts himself with the pleasures of the world while ignoring life’s storms and ultimately dies. He’s reincarnated (this is obviously some years later) as Bill who is approaching the same disaster he did when he was Joe. Will he listen to “the Voice” this time, or suffer the same fate all over again?
What happened to Jonah?